Don’t worry, folks — we’re not disrupting our schedule in our second week. Greg Hatcher’s column will be up later today. In the meantime, I thought I’d give you a morning bonus with some spoiler-free reviews of Monday night’s Fathom Events screening of Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and the second season premiere of Supergirl on the CW.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders
Return of the Caped Crusaders brings Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar back to their roles of Batman, Robin, and Catwoman for an all-new adventure in the style of the classic 1960s show. And for the most part, it’s a smashing success.
The initial premise is the same one as 1966 Batman movie: the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman have all teamed up to menace Gotham City, but the plot quickly takes some twists and turns that would have been impossible 50 years ago. And there’s lot of fun to be had along the way.
The character designs are remarkably faithful to the show and the animation is very fluid. And the plot is episodic enough that it can easily be broken up (the Adam West show was always best in small doses).
Sure, there are a few missteps — the feature doesn’t open with a William Dozier-like narrator, there’s no “Gotham City 14 Miles” sign outside the Batcave, and the animators unfortunately missed the joke that Bruce’s Batpole is slightly larger than Dick’s — but they’re all of the nitpicking variety. The show’s other tropes are present and accounted for: the Batfights, the deathtraps, the Dynamic Duo’s so-square-they’re-cool personalities — even the Batusi makes an appearance. There are cameos galore and a few wicked in-jokes, including one directed at the Chris Nolan Batman movies that made me laugh out loud.
As you might expect, Julie Newmar’s Catwoman has the largest role of the villains. The new voice cast acquits itself very well. Jeff Bergman is so good as the Joker that you forget he’s not Caesar Romero, and “Adam West” singer Wally Wingert absolutely nails Frank Gorshin’s Riddler laugh. William Salyers’ Penguin is a bit more Ted Knight than Burgess Meredith, but not so much as to be distracting. Steven Weber and Thomas Lennon do a nice job voicing Alfred and Chief O’Hara, respectively. And it’s certainly fun to hear West, Ward, and Newmar reprise their roles. If they sound less energetic than they did in their 60s’ heyday — well, it has been 50 years after all.
Bottom line: If you like the ’66 Batman show, you’ll like this. It’s a fitting tribute and a fun reunion for the 50th Anniversary.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is available on Digital HD today, Oct. 11th, and will be released on BluRay Nov. 1st. A sequel has already been announced with William Shatner as Two-Face, and I look forward to seeing it. If anyone can figure out how to chew scenery in animated form, it’ll be Shatner and West.
Supergirl S2 Premiere: “The Adventures of Supergirl”
While I was a bit mixed on the first season of Supergirl, the perfect casting of Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers/Supergirl overcomes most of the show’s flaws. Benoist has everything you need to play an optimistic superheroine — she’s comfortable in the costume, she can play upbeat without being sappy, and her smile lights up a room. Even when I dislike an episode, I always like her, so I really want to see the show become the best it could be.
I’m happy to report that the show is improving on all fronts. The big news for the season two premiere is Tyler Hoechlin as Superman, and he’s great in the role. Hoechlin and Benoist have an immediate, charming rapport; you really believe that they have a shared history. Supergirl‘s producers are giving us a Superman in stark contrast to the Zack Snyder version — this a guy who smiles, shakes hands, winks, and says “lickedy-split” without irony. And to make it even more obvious, they give 1978’s Superman the Movie three or four different shout-outs. They do everything short of running a scroll along the bottom of the screen reading, “Yes, this IS your father’s Superman,” and I for one couldn’t be happier about it. I just wish that he could be a bit buffer than Jimmy Olsen.
But there’s more to Supergirl‘s premiere than just Superman. It also sets up the series’ new status quo with a light touch. Kara’s career, love life, the DEO’s headquarters and personnel are all in a new place by the end of the hour, with only the romantic subplot feeling contrived. Oh, and they also introduce Lena Luthor, John Corben, and the mystery of that spaceship occupant from the season one finale. If all of season two is this assured in its storytelling, we’re in for a great year. For a show that was on the bubble for me last season, it’s a strong contender for “Most Improved.”
Supergirl airs Monday nights at 8pm EST on the CW, and is also available On Demand. Season one is available on Netflix.